Thursday, September 25, 2008
The Pop Life
New York Times
By STEPHEN HOLDEN
Published: November 25, 1987
Barry Manilow, a symbol of sweet-toothed middle-of-the-road pop for well over a decade, has just released the most adventuresome album of his career. "Swing Street" (Arista), a likable pop-swing record that steers clear of pop formulas, is Mr. Manilow's second venture outside the commercial mainstream. Three years ago, he released "2:00 A.M. Paradise Cafe," a sparsely arranged album of torch songs that sold a very respectable 900,000 copies. "Swing Street," by contrast, is more uptempo and electronic. Its jumping cuts include a version of "Stompin' at the Savoy" and an original Latin-flavored pop confection, "Hey Mambo," co-produced with Miami Sound Machine, in which Mr. Manilow has a duet with August Darnell of Kid Creole and the Coconuts. Other guests on the record include Phyllis Hyman, Tom Scott, Gerry Mulligan and Diane Schuur, who joins Mr. Manilow on a version of the Gershwins' "Summertime."
"This album is the result of two years of self-examination," the 41-year-old singer said the other day. "For the first time in my life I found myself feeling creatively dry and asking the same questions everyone does when they approach 40. Before 'Swing Street,' I recorded an acoustic uptempo pop-jazz album with a bunch of well-known musicians, but I decided not to release it. Then, through Lorraine Feather, I met Eddie Arkin, a guitarist who is heavily involved with synthesizers. Though I had been working with synthesizers for 18 months, it had never dawned on me to use them in a swing context. He showed me how to combine acoustic and electronic instrumentation and not sound horribly gimmicky."
"Swing Street" marks Mr. Manilow's return to Arista Records after an unhappy one-album sojourn on RCA. Arista's president, Clive Davis, had helped choose many of Mr. Manilow's biggest hits. Mr. Manilow recently finished taping a television special, "Bug Fun on Swing Street," based on the album, that he described as "a little operetta." CBS is to broadcast it in January. And he has just begun a two-year tour with a show that has characters and a story line. The show, an ambitious attempt to bridge the gap between a pop concert and a Broadway show, may end up in a Broadway house two years from now.
Posted by Peachy at 11:37 AM